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March 2021

HPIO fact sheet outlines link between K-12 student wellness, health equity

The Health Policy Institute of Ohio released a new fact sheet titled “K-12 Student Wellness and Health Equity,” which explores the connection between student wellness and health.

According to the fact sheet, “Research has shown that schools can positively impact academic success and educational attainment through student wellness and health improvement efforts, such as school-based health care, drug and violence prevention and social-emotional learning programs.”

The fact sheet notes:

  • Nearly one quarter of Black children in Ohio (22%) were chronically absent during the 2019-2020 school year, compared to 8% of white children in Ohio.
  • The percent of high school students in Ohio who did not graduate in four years was 3.2 times higher for students with low incomes compared to peers with higher incomes.
  • Among children in Ohio with special healthcare needs who needed care coordination, 41% did not receive needed care coordination in 2018-2019.
  • The suicide rate for youth, ages 8-17, in Appalachian counties in Ohio was 1.5 times higher than the overall youth suicide rate in 2018.

The fact sheet also includes links to existing state plans and resources that include strategies policymakers can focus on to improve K-12 student wellness.

Addressing racial disparities in infant mortality requires dismantling structural racism

Black babies in Ohio are born too early and too small — factors that contribute to dying before their first birthdays at a rate twice that of white babies (Source: “Black babies dying at alarming rate: How can their lives be saved?,” Dayton Daily News, March 14, 2021).

While disparities in income and educational attainment play a role, Black mothers with higher incomes and education are still more likely to live in disadvantaged neighborhoods, face biases from health care professionals and toxic stress from racism that erodes health on a cellular level, according to the Health Policy Institute of Ohio. Some research indicates the health impacts of that stress can be passed on.

Policymakers need to dismantle structural racism with reforms that create equitable access for communities of color to housing, jobs, education and quality, less-biased health care, say experts at HPIO. In the short-term, local groups should continue connecting minority and at-risk moms with assistance services.

Ban on menthol cigarettes, long marketed to Black Americans, gains momentum

Banning menthol cigarettes appears to be gaining political momentum at the federal, state and local levels (Source: “Menthol Cigarettes Kill Many Black People. A Ban May Finally Be Near.,” New York Times, March 22).

Black smokers smoke less but die of heart attacks, strokes and other causes linked to tobacco use at higher rates than white smokers do, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And 85% of Black smokers use Newport, Kool and other menthol brands that are aggressively marketed to Black Americans and are easier to become addicted to and harder to quit than plain tobacco, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

There is also now growing momentum in Congress to enact a ban. In states and municipalities across the country, Black public health activists have been organizing support and getting new laws passed at the state and local level. Public opposition among white parents to all flavored e-cigarettes, including menthol, has brought new resources to the issue. And the FDA is under a court order to respond to a citizens’ petition to ban menthol by April 29.

Feds announce $2.5 billion in grants to public health departments to promote health equity

The Biden administration announced this month that billions of dollars in federal money will be used to help communities hardest hit by the pandemic, including $2.25 billion in grants for public health departments to promote health equity (Source: “White House Sets Aside Billions for Health Equity,” WebMD, March 17).

The funding, which will be distributed as grants averaging $20 million, will improve testing and contact tracing, along with prevention strategies, according to CDC officials.

In addition, the Department of Health and Human Services signed a $150 million agreement today to help vulnerable areas get better access to monoclonal antibody therapy -- lab-made proteins that mimic an immune response and have been shown to prevent severe illness in COVID-19 patients. This may include more staff and equipment needed to administer the antibodies via IV, said Marcela Nunez-Smith, MD, the White House COVID-19 equity task force chair.

HPIO fact sheet explores COVID-19 impact on ACEs

The Health Policy Institute of Ohio has released a new fact sheet, “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).”

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in unprecedented health, social and economic challenges for all Ohioans. These challenges are far-reaching, including loss of loved ones, unemployment, business closures, disruption to K-12 education and increased stress and social isolation.

The full extent of the impacts of the pandemic on children and youth will take years to discern. However, early indicators of childhood adversity signal the impact of the pandemic on potential challenges to Ohio’s health, well-being and economic vitality for years to come. The fact sheet includes links to recent reports that provide evidence-informed policies that can be implemented in Ohio to prevent and mitigate the impacts of ACEs and eliminate disparities.

The fact sheet is the latest in a series of HPIO publications and an online resource page to examine the impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) in Ohio. Other publications include:

Vaccine supply expected to increase as eligibility widened

An expected 25% increase in the number of COVID-19 vaccines in coming weeks led the state to make everyone 16 and older eligible to get inoculated starting March 29, Gov. Mike DeWine said (Source: “State’s vaccine supply to increase 25 percent,” (Warren) Tribune Chronicle, March 19).

The state is receiving about 400,000 vaccine doses each week, and that will go up to 500,000 a week starting March 29, he said Thursday.

Beginning today, the minimum age to be eligible for the vaccine is going from 50 to 40. Also, those with certain medical conditions are eligible today. Starting March 29, all those who are at least 16 years old will be eligible for the vaccine.

Of the state’s 88 counties, 62 are at Level 3, 21 are at Level 2 (orange) and 5 are at Level 1 (yellow). No counties are at the highest Level 4 (purple).

Concern grows over reduction in cancer screenings amid pandemic

Experts are expressing concern that a reduction in cancer screenings over the past year will soon result in an increase in advanced cases (Source: “Advanced Cancers Are Emerging, Doctors Warn, Citing Pandemic Drop in Screenings,” New York Times, March 17).

Months of lockdowns and waves of surging COVID-19 cases throughout last year shuttered or reduced hours at clinics and cancer-testing labs, resulting in steep declines in the number of screenings, including for breast and colorectal cancers, experts have said.

Numerous studies showed that the number of patients screened or given a diagnosis of cancer fell during the early months of the pandemic. By mid-June, the rate of screenings for breast, colon and cervical cancers were still 29% to 36% lower than their prepandemic levels, according to an analysis of data by the Epic Health Research Network. Hundreds of thousands fewer screenings were performed last year than in 2019, according to the network data.

While it is too early to assess the full impact of the delays in screenings, many cancer specialists say they are concerned that patients are coming in with more severe disease.

“There’s no question in practice that we are seeing patients with more advanced breast cancer and colorectal cancer,” said Dr. Lucio N. Gordan, the president of the Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, one of the nation’s largest independent oncology groups. 

DeWine: Ohio on track to open vaccines to all adults by May 1

Ohio is on track to open access to COVID-19 vaccines to all adults by President Biden's May 1 milestone and could lift restrictions in the next seven to eight weeks, Gov. Mike DeWine said Friday (Source: “Gov. Mike DeWine: Coronavirus restrictions could be lifted 'in 7 to 8 weeks',” Columbus Dispatch, March 12).

President Biden said Thursday he wants states to make all adults eligible for the vaccine by May 1. Biden noted that does not mean all Americans will immediately receive a vaccine after that date, but that "you’ll be able to get in line beginning May 1."

"Within a month, it’s going to be pretty open," DeWine said Friday.

On Thursday, Ohio's incidence rate was 155 new cases per 100,000 residents during the past two weeks – down from 179 the week before. DeWine said when that rate reaches 50, he will lift all state health orders including a mask mandate and restrictions on bars, restaurants, entertainment venues and more.

"We certainly could be out of this in seven or eight weeks," DeWine said. "What we don’t really know is the impact this variant is having or will have as it spreads throughout the state."

Report: Ohio ranks near the bottom for public health preparedness

A new national report found that Ohio ranked as one the least-prepared states for future public health emergencies (Source: “Report: Ohio Lags in Public Health Preparedness,” Spectrum News, March 10).

According to Trust for America’s Health’s new report, “Ready or Not,” Ohio is in the lowest preparedness tier, in part, because Ohio ranks the lowest in the percentage of hospitals in healthcare coalitions that focus on response preparedness.

The report indicates that the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that many states were not prepared for a public health crisis. “We weren’t as prepared as we should have been for a pandemic,” the group’s policy director, Rhea Farberman, said. “That’s something that the public health experts have been warning us about for decades.”   

According to data from HPIO’s 2019 Health Value Dashboard, Ohio ranked 48th out of the 50 states and D.C. in per capita emergency preparedness funding and 45th out of 50 in state public health workforce.

Pandemic could cause more childhood lead poisoning, CDC says

Lead screenings for children plummeted last spring, and stay-at-home orders may have increased household exposure to the toxic metal (Source: “More Childhood Lead Poisoning Is a Side Effect of Covid Lockdowns,” New York Times, March 11).

Over the past half-century, public health officials have made enormous progress in protecting American children from lead poisoning and the irreversible neurological damage it can cause. Since the 1970s, the percentage of children with high levels of lead in their blood has plummeted.

But in 2020, when Covid-19 cases spiked, lockdowns and day care closures confined young children to their homes, where lead exposure can be particularly high. The growing national emergency also delayed lead-removal efforts and disrupted routine childhood lead screenings, leaving health officials unable to identify and treat many children living in lead-laden homes.

Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that in the early months of the pandemic, roughly 10,000 children with elevated levels of lead in their blood may have gone undetected.

There is no safe level of exposure to lead, which can disrupt neurological and cognitive development, causing learning disabilities, behavioral problems and developmental delays.